Book review: Wandering Girl

WANDERING GIRL

By Glenyse Ward

First published by Magabala Books Aboriginal Corporation, 1987

Pages: 158

Wandering Girl is an autobiographical novel written by Glenyse Ward, a victim of the Stolen Generation who was uprooted from her home and put into a mission. In the book, Glenyse is sent to work on a white person’s farm at the age of sixteen and she relives and recounts her experiences as a ‘little dark servant’ there. Wandering Girl is part of the curriculum and proves to be a short and sweet page turner. It highlights the harrowing experiences that Glenyse, the central character goes through, and is a profoundly moving read as the end promises hope and happiness.

The characters in this book have a natural tenderness and believability about them. The reactions and emotions of each character seem genuine, especially those of the young mischievous girls at Wandering Mission. One can only adore the farm-hand Bill who is my favourite character. Bill seems to be the most appealing because he is portrayed as a nice old man who is a very good friend to Glenyse. Bill cheers Glenyse up and helps her with her duties at the farm. He is always there for her and reminds her that she is a beautiful, capable young woman and that everything is going to be alright when she gets upset. It is heart breaking when Bill becomes ill and has to leave. His last words to Glenyse are that she become a good mother to her children, and she proves to be so; the epilogue mentions Glenyse’s strong determination to give her kids every opportunity in their lives to become whatever they want to be. The author has done an excellent job at creating and portraying the different characters in the novel, especially the supercilious Mrs Bigelow and her condescending attitude towards Glenyse. The priest’s disapproval of Glenyse’s letters to her friends at the Mission also seems realistic. The author also shows how there are nice people out there amongst the narrow minded few, like the nuns Glenyse meets on Christmas Eve and the old lady who helps her take a bus to Armadale.

My favourite scene in this novel is where Glenyse and Bill have a jam-session on the piano. It is beautiful to read of how the two sing songs and bond over the simple pleasures in life. They laugh and enjoy themselves. Like a cool shower in the midst of scorching summer, it is a welcome respite after months of suffering that Glenyse endures. As for Bill, it is a joyful interlude from the pangs of loneliness of being without a family. I was also charmed by the generosity and kindness of Kaylene and the man at the hospital, who hires Glenyse. It is gratifying to know that Glenyse gets a job at the hospital and shaking off her past, she moves on, looking forward to happiness ahead.

Wandering Girl has broadened my knowledge and understanding of what happened in the past to Aboriginal women. It provides an insight into how they led their lives in the face of racial discrimination and other situations they went through after being taken away from their real homes. It also stresses the importance of hope and faith as the book ends on a very optimistic note. Glenyse meets with great misfortunes, but instead of falling into an abyss of despair, she maintains her fortitude and good humour which help her deal with the challenges each day brings. In the end we see her emerging as a stronger person, like a Phoenix rising from its ashes. The novel is thus an inspiring piece of literature. It is informative, enlightening and edifying. Hence, I have no hesitation in recommending it to one and all.

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Published in: on September 2, 2013 at 10:47 AM  Leave a Comment  

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